Half-Shabbos, Half-Hearted

Post by Melissa

Today I saw this article (care of twitter, which I am quickly learning to love, so you should all follow the blog!) and while I want to say it surprised me, it didn’t.  However, the idea that texting has been deemed keeping “Half-Shabbos” is disappointing to me.

Turning off my phone was the single hardest thing for me when I become Shomer Shabbat. I know many people who hold out on fully diving into this mitzvah because letting go of their phone feels so isolating.  I know that’s how it felt for me. It was almost three years before I finally let go of the cell phone, and that was as a 20-something without a smart phone. I can only imagine how much harder it would be with a smart phone as an older 20-something, or as a teen with non-religious friends who all want to be texting.

That said, when I did give it up – Shabbat became so much more powerful.  I had to surround myself with live people and have real live conversations if I wanted to engage.  If I wasn’t with people, I had to find ways to be comfortable being alone with myself.  I went for walks, read books, studied Jewish texts, and learned to appreciate the infamous “Shabbos Schluff” (a Saturday afternoon nap).  Now, I have a group of friends who are all checked into Shabbat who enjoy spending time together in the afternoons.  And while some may go home to their electronics eventually, while we’re together – its a full-Shabbos environment.  We talk about anything that comes to mind without anyone checking their texts or emails.  We eat and drink and laugh and argue and just enjoy spending relaxed time together.

How often do you really get the chance to spend time with your friends or family without any other distractions? I get it 25 hours a week and wouldn’t give it up for anything.

To think that by texting you’re keeping half of Shabbat, is a very half-hearted reality.  By texting people you are opting out of being in the moment with those you are with.  You lose the opportunity to bond in a real way with those you share the incredible bond of Shabbat with.  While its hard to start, its worth engaging Shabbat with your whole heart.



12 thoughts on “Half-Shabbos, Half-Hearted

  1. One of the comments below the article you linked to hit a chord with me, and it’s exactly what I would have said were I more eloquent:

    “The halachic permissibility of texting–like that of electricity usage in general–is largely debatable and has become more of a political or denominational than religious cause. Whether or not a Jew uses electricity or not on Shabbat has become a way of circling the wagons of practice and defining religious identification, i.e. Conservative versus Orthodox, than a real halachic issue. The problem here is the value of Shabbos. These teenagers do not seem to see the value of tuning out to tune in more fully to Hashem and Hashem’s world. The true failing of their religious education has been its inability to instill fervency in religious practice. The legalism of our tradition has supplanted the spirit of its practice.”

    As you said – the real point of Shabbos is checking out of the “real world” in favor of Shabbos-world; a world where time is irrelevant and the only people who matter are the ones you’re with RIGHT NOW. It’s a shame these teens’ parents haven’t done more to try to and actively show their kids the beauty and power of Shabbos.

    • Exactly Alison! The halacha is just one part of it, and outside my realm of writing. However, the kavod of Shabbat I’m all about. I hope that this being in the news empowers some parents to reach out more to their kids and show them the “beauty and power of Shabbos.” (I like that phrasing!)

  2. The article brought sadness to this Yid.

    It also made me very , very thankful to have not faced the nisayon of going through middle and high school years with a cell phone. Like many in my age group, I got one upon turning 18. It’s weird to feel old at merely 26, but I seriously do, because it’s now a totally different world- kids getting cell phones as early as fifth and sixth grade! I feel for them and the nisyonos it clearly presents.

    I agree, there is nothing greater than being away from cell phones and email for the 25 hour oasis that is the holy Shabbos. People who haven’t experienced Shabbos would look at its myriad laws and prohibitions as enslaving. Far, far from it. There could be nothing more liberating! …. for it is we who are enslaved to this physical world and its technology the rest of the week. Shabbos really helps us keep things in perspective. It could not make us more free.

    Great post.

  3. Alison, that was exactly the bit of the article that I found the hardest to deal with. Thanks for helping me figure that out. Teenagers often have so little control of their environment that I can’t wonder at the feeling of needing something more.

    I also wonder if this is also about the little rebellion – and that most will stop when they are older and more able to realize what they’re doing.

    • I wonder if by normalizing it though, they won’t recognize the issues in it. I fear it may have a snowball effect in fact. (Does half-Shabbos lead to half-kashrut and half-taharat ha mishpacha?) I really hope someone does some follow up studies on these kids and what their Jewish path looks like.

  4. Maybe because I used to go to camp every summer, where I didn’t have any computer, phone, or television access at all for 4-8 weeks, but turning off electronics was just not that hard for me, even though I am very clearly addicted to email, facebook, blogs, etc. My favorite part, though, is that when we’re in the middle of a conversation on Shabbat, there are NO artificial interruptions. A question comes up (what’s the capitol of wherever), nobody knows the answer, and nobody immediately whips out their phone to put the conversation on pause for 5 minutes while they find the answer on the internet. Who needs to know so much at a moment’s notice? I look forward to that uninterrupted togetherness of Shabbat.

    • My favorite part, though, is that when we’re in the middle of a conversation on Shabbat, there are NO artificial interruptions. A question comes up (what’s the capitol of wherever), nobody knows the answer, and nobody immediately whips out their phone to put the conversation on pause for 5 minutes while they find the answer on the internet. Who needs to know so much at a moment’s notice?

      YES! Absolutely the best =)

  5. *shrug* I don’t really think this is a new issue. How many Shomer Shabbos kids had TVs or landline phones or computers or CD players or any number of electronics in their rooms growing up? It is just as easy to use those devices without anyone seeing you as it is to text your friends from the bathroom (and I’m sure kids used those devices just as much as kids are texting now). “Some teens say they see their parents making their own compromises with the letter or spirit of Jewish law, and don’t think a text message on Shabbat is any different.” Why are parents making compromises about Shabbos? Whatever their leniency is, it sets an example for the kids and shows them that Shabbos laws don’t really ALL need to be followed. Take away the cell phone for the 25 hours; you do the same thing with pork and shellfish on an everyday basis, right? If your kids complain, well, when did saying “no” become the “uncool” thing for parents to do?

    Jewish education starts and ends at home; you can send your kids to the most frum yeshiva in the neighborhood, but if you’re not reinforcing what they learn with that lifestyle at home, you’re wasting their time and your money.

  6. Pingback: Haveil Havalim #320 — Summertime edition « Frume Sarah's World

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